Immigration Act (Canada) (1869)


Seeking to encourage economic development in the new dominion, Canada’s first piece of immigration legislation was designed to attract productive immigrants. With immigrant entry now under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture, the act was intended to ensure safe passage for immigrants, to regulate abuses commonly perpetrated against the new arrivals by unscrupulous businessmen, and to encourage settlement. The measure was nevertheless a failure, as most immigrants continued on to the United States.
The Immigration Act contained few restrictions. It prohibited entry of paupers unless the shipmaster provided temporary support. In 1872, the measure was amended to prohibit criminals. The act required those soliciting business from immigrants to obtain a license. Boardinghouses were required to clearly post their rates. The measure also provided for government agents to assist immigrants in arranging lodging and making connections to their chosen destinations. This service eventually led to the establishment of reception centers in Halifax, Nova Scotia; Montreal and Quebec, Quebec; Kingston and Toronto, Ontario; and Winnipeg, Manitoba, where temporary lodging and meals could be found, along with advice regarding local labor opportunities and transportation. The government provided discount passage rates for domestic workers, who were in high demand. Benevolent societies such as the Women’s National Immigration Society ensured that the protection of women was a priority, leading to 1892 amendments prohibiting seduction by ships’ crew members. Special agents also were provided to assist women in port, and special railcars were designated for transportation to other parts of Canada.

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